Indigenous Peoples’ Day 1492-2022: 530 Years of Conflict
Debra Schrishuhn for the PDA National Team
Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with Words and Action
Tomorrow is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Started in Berkeley, California, in 1992, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has spread across many cities, 15 states, and the District of Columbia. Some states use different names; some celebrate on different dates. Last year, President Biden issued a proclamation designating October 11, 2021, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, stating in part: “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.”
Despite genocide, colonization, and concerted attempts at cultural obliteration, Native cultures have persevered and flourished, and recent months have seen some landmark victories. Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo people is the first Native American Cabinet Secretary. On December 16, 2021, she swore in Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, as the first Native American to serve as Director of the National Park Service.
Everyone should have access to the outdoors no matter where they live, how much money they have, or what their background is. Chuck Sams understands the importance of connecting people to nature, and I am thrilled to work with him as the Interior Department works to make our national park system accessible to all Americans. —Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, at Director Sams’ swearing-in ceremony
Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather, who famously declined Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award at the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony with a speech calling out Hollywood’s injustice in its portrayal of Native Americans, died a week ago. Three months before her death, she finally received a written apology from the President of the Academy for the harassment and discrimination she had suffered nearly 50 years before.
All we were asking, and I was asking, was, ‘Let us be employed. Let us be ourselves. Let us play ourselves in films. Let us be a part of your industry, producing, directing, writing. Don’t write our stories for us. Let us write our own stories. Let us be who we are.’ —Sacheen Littlefeather, reflecting on her historic appearance at the 1973 Oscars
Words matter. Actions matter more. PDA joins Native American activists and allies to stop construction on invasive pipelines, end domestic fossil fuel subsidies, put people and planet over profit in federal policy and budget priorities, expand healthcare to everyone, and enable voting rights and accessibility to all eligible citizens. Click here to volunteer on environmental projects, universal healthcare access, and voting rights. It is vital that we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with actions as well as words.
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